Two popular retail stores will be open for business by the end of the month in Bel Aire Plaza.
But while many Napans are excited about the center's improvements, some are concerned that traffic and parking in the area are reaching the outer limits. Others want a few more controls over dogs' visits at the center.
Chico’s clothing store and Pier 1 Imports are busy putting the finishing touches on their businesses and will be welcoming customers who frequent the busy, pet-friendly, group gathering shopping center in north Napa.
Chico’s is in the former location of which consolidated its business into a smaller space next to Villa Corona.
Pier 1 Imports will be in the space previously occupied by which downsized it business space when it moved next door to Whole Foods last winter.
As of now, the other two spots vacant with the departure of Casey’s Hallmark and Pure Beauty last year have no new tenants.
No one has applied for a business license for either location, according to a Napa Planning Department spokesman.
“I love this place (Bel Aire.) My dog loves this place. It’s busy, bustling and a spot great to sit, drink coffee and people watch,” said Roberta Owens of Napa. “There is no other shopping in Napa with so much going on.”
Kerry Style of Yountville agrees.
“I can bring Casey, (her 3 pound Yorkie) relax, read and shop,” she said. “Trader Joe’s even puts out doggie treats and water for the dogs.”
However not everyone is thrilled about the explosion of Bel Aire Plaza’s popularity.
Napan Kevin Hudson is upset about the parking, which has been a sore subject since the center’s patronage has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years.
“It’s a traffic nightmare. I have spent up to 10 to 15 minutes driving around looking for a parking place. And don’t even get me started on the entrance to the place,” he said. “It’s bottleneck at Trancas and California.”
Jim Brown of Napa agrees.
“It’s like the LA freeway in rush hour. It’s bumper-to-bumper of cars trying to get into the center, and all those other cars driving at a snail pace up and down the aisles looking for one of the prized parking places.”
Scott Klingbeil, Napa city senior planner, said the center has about 700 parking places.
“Generally the rule is one parking space for every 250 square feet of the size of the entire amount of store space in the shopping center,” he said. “And 25 percent of the parking spaces can be used for businesses generating more customers, such as restaurants.”
Klingbeil believes the large traffic volume at Bel Aire Plaza is partially due the to popularity of the center.
“It’s a place people want to shop, drink coffee and visit,” he said.
Robert Blair, co-owner of Barber Shop of Napa Valley, adjacent to understands the frustration of shopper’s parking woes.
“It’s a mess. The parking in front of our business is a 20-minute limit. Do most people pay any attention to that — no,” he said. “If they would that would free up some parking.”
Blair suggests parking meters in the 20-minute slots could solve the problem.
“Charge 25 cents for 20 minutes," he said. "The revenue it would generate could be put back into the center for improvements.”
Some days at Bel-Aire it seems as if dogs outnumber humans.
Blair has his opinions about this as well.
“I like dogs, don’t get me wrong," he said. "Most owners clean up their dog poop, but it’s impossible to clean up when the dogs pee on the planters and pillars right out in front of the businesses."
But Blair has a solution to that as well.
“Put in a small pet area where people could walk their dogs," Blair said. "Have poop bags, maybe a bench, and pet owners could could take their dogs there and let them do their business.”
Although most everyone has their pros and cons on what needs to be done at Bel Aire Plaza, money also talks.
According to Napa City Economic Development Project Coordinator Robin Klingbeil, Bel Aire Plaza contributes to the city’s tax base.
Based on sales tax base for the past three years, Bel Aire Plaza contributed 6 percent, she said.
“I think that percentage seem rather low, but when you consider the center is grocery related it explains the lower number as most grocery items are not taxable,” she said.
During the past three years other Napa shopping centers generated the following percentage of the city’s sales tax base.
- Downtown - 14 percent.
- South Napa Marketplace - 11 percent.
- Trancas/Jefferson streets - 7 percent
- Premium Outlets - 6 percent
- Redwood Plaza - 3 percent
- Silverado Plaza - 2 percent
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